Barack Obama's Foreign Policy updated
It's an ambitious speech, as I'm sure Mr. Obama felt was necessary. But it's
not the speech of the 21st century, in my estimation. It is riddled with the
same old talking points we've been hearing for years from our candidates, with
some alarming assumptions weaved in. For instance:
In today's globalized world, the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people. When narco-trafficking and corruption threaten democracy in Latin America, it's America's problem too. When poor villagers in Indonesia have no choice but to send chickens to market infected with avian flu, it cannot be seen as a distant concern. When religious schools in Pakistan teach hatred to young children, our children are threatened as well.
Whether it's global terrorism or pandemic disease, dramatic climate change or the proliferation of weapons of mass annihilation, the threats we face at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.
The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too Ã¢â‚¬“ because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.
Isolationism isn't the key, but neither is the type of language that hints that your problems are our problems. Coalitions to handle the world's problems are one way to assess where we stand today in a time of globalization, but to say that our security is "inextricably linked" to the "security of all people" makes me nervous. As we have learned, sometimes our security is inexplicably linked to minding our own business, especially when we don't understand the tribal cultures in another part of the world.
The other problem is that third paragraph above. I'm sick of hearing it, aren't you? The truth is that someone should make a speech saying September 11th awakened us to how sound asleep we'd been. Like the VA Tech killer, there were warning signs long before 9/11. Why did we miss them? Just once I wish a Democratic politician would talk about how clueless we were from the Marine barracks bombing, into Daddy Bush's presidency and beyond. There was no "new reality" on 9/11. We just woke up to look at the history that preceded it to find out that we'd missed our enemy's footsteps.
Obama's plan for Iraq is a lot like Clinton's, which is unlikely to make anyone
happy. But as has been proven, their votes in the Senate on Iraq are exactly alike, too.
I acknowledged at the time that there are risks involved in such an approach. That is why my plan provides for an over-the-horizon force that could prevent chaos in the wider region, and allows for a limited number of troops to remain in Iraq to fight al Qaeda and other terrorists.
As for me, I believe we will have a force in the region, so I differ from the Richardson view and many others as well. I just don't want temporary or permanent bases in Iraq.
When Obama talks about "we can and must work with Russia to make sure every one of its nuclear weapons and every cache of nuclear material is secured," he is talking about the most important national security threat we face, unsecured nuclear material. Good for him.
Scott Paul over at Clemons' place finds Obama's "free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil" line "bad." I agree. There is absolutely nothing I can find that says we can get off of foreign oil. It's a good line, but that's all it is. However, that doesn't mean we can't develop alternative fuels. I'm just not impressed with political lines for their own sake. Hey, but we all know pols do it, right?
I also hate lines like this:
No President should ever hesitate to use force Ã¢â‚¬“ unilaterally if necessary Ã¢â‚¬“ to protect ourselves and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened. ... ..
It's the line politicians believe has to be said in order to show you're tough. Frankly, it's the always expected out macho the Republicans line. It means nothing, so why say it? To show you're not a wuss. But let's face it, no United States president would ever do anything less. Don't we know that by now? If a candidate was really brave and truly believed our security was interconnected with others around the globe he or she might offer that the way to global security in the 21st century is through diplomacy and coalition partnerships that leverage power to make war too dangerous to wage; too risky to start, because the world peacemakers are lined up against frivolous wars in a united effort to forestall all wars.
An old video of one of the experts who has blogged here at TM.com, as well as Clemons' Washington Note, Charles PeÃƒÂ±a, has it right on this whole line of use of force and the un-war on terror, I think. Watch it, you'll see.
Changing the rhetoric, however, would take a 21st century mind who actually believes fighting for peace and a more muscular State Department is a tougher stance than pontificating that no President should ever hesitate to use force Ã¢â‚¬“ unilaterally if necessary Ã¢â‚¬“ to protect ourselves and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened. After Iraq, does any leader or nation of people believe that isn't true of the U.S.?
It's a good effort, even if it seems like the same old, same old to me.
UPDATE: Matt Stoller has the short version of Obama's speech. It's classic.